Uri Avnery, a self-confessed former “Jewish terrorist” who went on to become Israel’s best-known peace activist, died in Tel Aviv on Monday, following a stroke. He was 94.
As one of Israel’s founding generation, Avnery was able to gain the ear of prime ministers, even while he spent decades editing an anti-establishment magazine that was a thorn in their side.
He came to wider attention in 1982 as the first Israeli to meet Yasser Arafat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. At the time, Arafat and the PLO were reviled in Israel and much of the west as terrorists.
Famously, Avnery smuggled himself past the Israeli army’s siege lines around Beirut to reach Arafat. The pair were reported to have maintained close ties until the Palestinian leader’s much speculated upon death in 2004.
Avnery founded Israel’s only significant – if small – peace movement, Gush Shalom, in 1993.
He and his followers tried to build political pressure in Israel and abroad, seeking to convert the lip service paid to a two-state solution in the Oslo peace process into a concrete Palestinian state.
A harsh critic of Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government until the end, Avnery filed his final weekly column two weeks ago, lambasting Israel’s new Nation-State Basic Law as “semi-fascist”.
For Israel’s currently besieged peace bloc, Avnery’s passing is a significant blow.
Despite tributes from Israeli opposition politicians on Monday, his voice had long…